Bananas are native to the tropical region of Southeast Asia. Nowadays bananas are cultivated throughout the tropics about 107 countries and are the 4th largest fruit crop of the world. Bananas were introduced to the American public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the same expo that introduced Alexander Graham Bell's telephone.
Banana plant needs 9 to 15 months of frost-free conditions to produce a flower stalk. Banana cultivation require wind protection for best appearance and maximum yield. The first flowers grow rapidly and develop parthenocarpically (without pollination) into clusters of fruits, called fruit hands. The number of fruit hands varies between plant varieties. Occasionally, cross-pollination with wild types will result in a number of seeds in a normally seedless variety. Bananas will grow in most soils, but to thrive, they should be planted in a rich, well-drained soil. The best possible location would be above an abandoned compost heap. They prefer an acid soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. The banana cultivation is not tolerant of salty soils.
Bananas are a valuable source of vitamin vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. Banana is easily digestible, contains no cholesterol and also a very good energizer. One banana finger, when munched with some groundnuts, or cashew nuts, can quickly restore lost energy to the body. Bananas are having a variety of sizes and colors like yellow, green, purple, and red.
The ripe banana is utilized in a multitude of ways in the human diet; from simply being peeled and eaten out of-hand to being sliced and served in fruit cups and salads, sandwiches, custards and gelatins; being mashed and incorporated into ice cream, bread, muffins, and cream pies.
In the islands of the South Pacific, unpeeled or peeled, unripe bananas are baked whole on hot stones, or the peeled fruit may be grated or sliced, wrapped, with or without the addition of coconut cream, in banana leaves, and baked in ovens. Ripe bananas are mashed, mixed with coconut cream, scented with Citrus leaves, and served as a thick, fragrant beverage.
In Polynesia, there is a traditional method of preserving large quantities of bananas for years. A pit is dug in the ground and lined with banana and Heliconza leaves. The peeled bananas are then wrapped in Heliconza leaves, arranged in layer after layer, then banana leaves are placed on top and soil and rocks heaped over all. The pits remain unopened until the fermented food, called "masi", is needed.
In Costa Rica, ripe bananas from an entire bunch are peeled and boiled slowly for hours to make a thick sirup which they called is "honey".
Dried green plantains, ground fine and roasted, have been used as a substitute for coffee.
Banana chips are also a kind of snack produced from dehydrated or fried banana, which have a dark brown color and an intense banana taste.
Banana peel, flowers and leaves
The flower of the banana plant is used in Southeast Asian, Tamil, Bengali, and Kerala cuisine, either served raw with dips or cooked in soups and curries. The inner most part of the flower can be eaten raw.
Few type of banana flower also has sweet honey in it. Honey bee keeping is a good business around banana cultivation plants.
The leaves of the banana plant are large, flexible, greeny and waterproof. They are used to lining cooking pits, wrapping up food for cooking and storage and also to serve food in India and other Asian countries.
In the Philippines, fiber from the pseudostem is woven into a thin, transparent fabric called "agna" which is the principal material in some regions for women's blouses and men's shirts. It is also used for making handkerchiefs and in Ceylon, it is fashioned into soles for inexpensive shoes and used for floor coverings.
Dried banana peel having 30 to 40% tannin content and are mainly used to blacken leather. The ash from the dried peel of bananas and plantains is rich in potash and used for making soap. The burned peel of unripe fruits of certain varieties is used for dyeing.
The juice extract prepared from the tender core of the banana tree is also used to treat kidney stones.
In Indian aurvedic medicine, juice is extracted from the corm and used for the treatment of jaundice, sometimes with the addition of honey.
Cooked flowers are given to diabetics
Young leaves are placed as poultices on burns and other skin afflictions
The astringent ashes of the unripe peel and of the leaves are taken in dysentery and diarrhea and used for treating malignant ulcers; the roots are administered in digestive disorders, dysentery and other ailments;
Banana seed mucilage is given in cases of catarrh and diarrhea in India.
See also Nutrition value of banana and banana products
Anti fungal and antibiotic principles are found in the peel and pulp of fully ripe bananas. The antibiotic acts against Mycobacteria. A fungicide in the peel and pulp of green fruits is active against a fungus disease of tomato plants. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are also present in the ripe peel and pulp. The first two elevate blood pressure; serotonin inhibits gastric secretion and stimulates the smooth muscle of the intestines.
Apple, Silk, or Manzana
Dessert type, pleasant sub-acid apple flavor when fully ripe. Fruit: 4 to 6 inches. Grows to 10 to 12 feet. The fruit is not ripe until some brownish specs appear on the skin. From planting until harvest is approximately 15 months.
Resistant to Panama Wilt disease. Clones of this variety are distinguished by the size of the pseudostem. The largest is Lacatan (12 to 18 feet) followed by Robusta and Giant Cavendish (10 to 16 feet). The smallest is the Dwarf Cavendish (4 to 7 feet).
Very tall (up to 25 feet), very tropical. Skin dark red, with generally reddish pseudostem. Fruit is especially aromatic with cream-orange pulp. 20 months from planting until harvest.
Commercially, the most important and considered by many to be the most flavorful. Because of its susceptibility to Panama Wilt disease it is being replaced with resistant varieties. Although there is no Panama Wilt in California, it does poorly here as the plant seems to need more heat and it tends to grow more slowly than other varieties.
Ice Cream or Blue Java
Medium-tall (15 to 20 feet), bluish cast to the unripe fruit. Fruit: 7 to 9 inches, quite aromatic and is said to melt in the mouth like ice cream. Bunches are small with seven to nine hands. 18 to 24 months from planting until harvest.
Tall (20 to 25 feet), excellent-quality fruit, tolerant of cool conditions. 15 to 18 months from planting to harvest.
The Goldfinger banana
The Goldfinger banana (FHIA-01) is a banana variety developed in Honduras. The variety, developed at the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA) by a team of scientists let by Philip Rowe and Franklin Rosales, has been bred to be pest-resistant (specifically against the black sigatoka) and crop-yielding.
Commonly grown in California for years as a landscape plant. Grows to 16 feet, more cold hardy than any other. 15 to 18 months from planting to harvest. Flavor is good, texture is less than perfect, but when properly grown and cultivated it can produce enormous stalks of fruit. Excellent in banana bread. Sometimes called horse, hog or burro banana, it can be purchased at most nurseries.
A Hawaiian variety with short, salmon-pink flesh, plump fruit that may be cooked or eaten fresh. A slender plant preferring a protected area with high humidity and filtered light. Grows to about 14 feet tall.
A Cavendish clone resembling the Robusta. Some believe them to be the same. The Dwarf Cavendish is the most widely planted as it is better adapted to a cool climate and is less likely to be blown over.
The same as Giant Cavendish. Originated from a mutation of Dwarf Cavendish found in Queensland, Australia. A commercial banana grown in many countries that does well in California. 10 to 16 feet in height and has a distinctive long, very large bud. The Del Monte is a Williams.
Controlled ripening and storage
Gibberellin A4A7, applied by any of these methods(either by spraying or in the form of a lanolin paste, on the stalk just above the first fruit hands, or by injection of a solution, powder or tablet into the stalk) about 2 months before time of normal ripening, had the effect of delaying ripening from 10 to 19 days. If applied too early, the gibberellin treatment has no effect.
In Indian cultures the banana plant because of its continuous reproduction, regarded as a symbol of fertility and prosperity, and the leaves and fruits are deposited on doorsteps of houses where marriages are taking place. Banana plants are often installed in the entrance of the home during marriage functions in Tamilnadu. Malay women bathe with a decoration of banana leaves for 15 days after childbirth. Early Hawaiians used a young plant as a truce flag in wars.